ENTREPRENEURS: Johannes le Roux and Inus Smuts — hangover-free G&T
An alcohol-free gin and tonic — developed by two local entrepreneurs — sounds like the ideal accompaniment to a business lunch
South Africans may be very fond of alcohol, but this hasn’t stopped entrepreneurs from looking for alternatives.
Enter The Duchess, a brand that is described as the world’s first nonalcoholic and sugar-free gin and tonic (G&T). The SA-crafted drink has sold 500,000 bottles in the less than two years since it was created.
Distilled by Johannes le Roux and Inus Smuts, the beverage is produced in Cape Town and is available in stores such as Makro, Spar and Pick n Pay. But it was online retailer Yuppiechef that gave The Duchess its first retail platform, in late 2016.
According to Le Roux, he had the idea after his visit to Amsterdam during the summer of 2016, when he noticed the popularity of gin all over the city.
"I also noticed that globally people are more health-conscious (specifically the war on sugar) which made me ask: can I create a beverage that speaks to both these challenges and opportunities?"
By crafting a nonalcoholic G&T, he was able to reach gin connoisseurs, while also providing a healthier alternative to alcohol, which would attract a different category of consumer.
The "secret recipe" of The Duchess G&T includes a key ingredient from Le Roux’s botanist aunt’s unique aromatic botanicals, sourced in Cape Town. It also uses distilled gin extracts, which are imported. Its other ingredients include orange peel, allspice, star anise, cardamom and cloves.
Le Roux describes The Duchess’s consumer as a health-conscious, successful, sophisticated and discerning individual seeking new experiences.
"Whether it’s because one is at a business lunch or is the designated driver, or for personal or health reasons, The Duchess offers people the choice of a low-calorie, nonalcoholic and refreshing beverage," he says.
Le Roux says The Duchess will continue to develop nonalcoholic drinks within the global beverage sector. It recently launched a new flavour — The Duchess Floral.
It also has plans to expand into more countries, following its entry into the UK, Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg and Scandinavia, where he says governments have encouraged nonalcoholic alternatives.
"Our plan is to launch in Japan, the UAE, Australia and then finally the US."
Le Roux won’t reveal sales figures for The Duchess in SA, but he says the country remains its largest market.
The Duchess employs eight people. And it has yet to find the right partners.
"We have not concluded any funding deal so far, as we believe that finding the right visionary partner is crucial to ensure that The Duchess can live up to the dream I had when I was in Amsterdam," Le Roux says.